Monday, June 11, 2012

A perfect gift for the woman who has... feet

I was not in a good place and I did something that is always risky. I wrote a blog about it and posted it on Facebook. I’m not sure why I went public with my funk, but I think I was feeling very alone and wanted to experience a connection with other people, even in my depressed state. If you are a Facebook user, you’ve probably noticed that, should you post something that is less than cheerful, you may be inundated with comments from your “friends” who feel compelled to cheer you up. Although this kind of superficial bullshit just ends up making me feel misunderstood and even more alone, I suppose I was asking for it. But this time that didn’t happen. Nobody tried to fix me or offer me advice. Instead, my friends responded as true friends. They told me that they heard me, and it was okay to be in a funk. I was impressed.

I suspect we all have a need for community in our lives. We long for connection with others who genuinely care about us. The church is that kind of community for me. I’m sure that’s one of the reasons why I was first drawn to ordained ministry. But lately I’ve been thinking that the way I’ve always defined “church” is  far too narrow. The people at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church on The Plaza are only a small portion of my church. My family, scattered all over the country, is also a part of my church. And all the people who have ever been in congregations I have served as a pastor through the years are included in my church. So are dear friends from my past who continue to be so much a part of me. And colleagues in ministry I’ve worked alongside, sometimes within the same congregation, and other times not even of the same faith. And then there are those people God seems to place in my life for reasons that I can’t begin to understand. They’re all a part of my church.

I was reminded of this in a big way last Monday night when I went to my local contra dance. There’s a young man at the dance named Matt who has become a good friend to me since I’ve become part of the dance community in Charlotte. He is always supportive and caring. When he read on my blog that I was in a funk, he told me that, if I came to the dance that night, he had a gift for me. I thought, now that’s a clever way to get me to dance, which is probably just the medicine I need right now. So, I went to the dance, and when I saw Matt, I called his bluff. Or, so I thought. “Where’s my gift?” I asked him.

“You have to sit down and take off your socks and shoes,” he told me. Not what I was expecting, but since I asked for it, I obliged.

Matt placed my feet in a plastic basin and opened a thermos he brought that was filled with hot water. It was actually a little too hot, so he scurried off to the kitchen to get some cold water to mix with it. And I realized, Matt is going to wash my feet here. Right in the middle of a dance at Chantilly Hall, this delightfully crazy kid is going to wash my freaking feet! And so he did, as he knelt before me. He produced some soap and thoroughly scrubbed them. Then he carefully dried them. And as a finishing touch, he massaged them with lavender oil.

It was one of those rare occasions when I was speechless. Not only was I someone who could appreciate the significance of washing feet, as a pastor. But as a dancer, the symbolism of renewing my feet was not lost on me. For a long time, health issues have kept me from enjoying contra as I once did, and it's been a source of great angst for me. To have another dancer wash my feet like that, while people were dancing all around us, was an extraordinary, holy moment for me. It touched me on a visceral level and I still don’t know how to describe it with words. But this much I can tell you. After Matt finished, and I sat smiling from head to toe in the afterglow, I knew one thing, beyond a doubt. I had been to church. And I realized that I don’t always have to go to church; sometimes church has a way of finding me. And yes, Matt, that is a "gift" to be sure.


Heather said...

The worst comment is "you're too blessed to be stressed!". Obviously people don't understand the mechanics of depression or even the things that get us in a funk. Always makes me want to slap somebody (not REALLY) when they say those things when I'm having a bad day. ;)

Sheri Kling said...

what a beautiful blog! I also loved your earlier one about how church should be more like contra dancing. I agree!